Recycling record

Baltimore County: A mountain of paper is collected with local government's encouragement.

April 28, 2001

STOP THE presses: Baltimore County residents have beaten their own record.

Last year, they collected an all-time high of 89.8 million pounds of residential mixed paper for recycling, besting their own statewide record they have held since 1995.

The county netted $930,000 from sales of the refuse paper. It also saved valuable landfill space.

"People know that recycling benefits the environment, but it makes economic sense, too," says County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

Is Mayor Martin O'Malley listening?

Just as cash-strapped Baltimore City is about to end blue-bag collections, Baltimore County is pushing full-steam ahead. Last year, 16.6 million pounds of recyclable bottles and cans were collected, generating $844,000 in revenue.

The county also collected 16,507 tons of yard waste. It was composted into earthy organic material for use by Baltimore County agencies and residents, who can pick it up for free when compost is available.

These are admirable achievements that instill pride and activism in residents.

Nothing illustrated this better than a county-sponsored sale of composting machines last weekend. Hundreds of residents stood in long lines to buy one of the 2,720 plastic bins that cost $21 each.

Those waiting for their turn at Oregon Ridge swapped stories about their previous composting experiences and gardening projects. Although they were talking to strangers, many quickly realized they had acquaintances in common. Others in line used the waiting time to call friends to find out whether they, too, wanted a composting machine.

This was a happy experience on a glorious spring day. It showed that Baltimore County has it figured out: Encouraging environmental activism mobilizes people to pull together.

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